The steep trail up a sun-dappled mosaic of concrete pavers was as arduous as it was idyllic. The pieces of Eden revealed at each and every step were the admission fees to a panorama of indescribable Tahitian beauty. Lush vegetation enveloped the trail to the right … and to the left … mountains of emerald loomed above … flowers decked in their most colorful finery preened below … canopies of banana trees cradled ripening fruit and giant rain forest leaves flourished in perfect concert with stately palm to the trees bursting with rustic coconuts filled with cool creamy elixir. Taking it all in, I thought I couldn’t be happier. I was wrong. Halfway up the trail, winded and “misting” heavily in the mid-day sun, I had a flash of intelligence (and self-preservation) that I should stop while I was ahead. That was not on the agenda for Skip, a rambunctious, happy puppy that bounded down the trail to greet me. He took to me immediately, like the true island ambassador he is. Running alongside me, he barked encouragement “come on, you can make it”. Scampering ahead of me, and then looking back in playful exuberance to assess my progress, he urged me up the incline. We were joined halfway up by a delightful tiny blond fluff of a kitten not content to be left out of the welcoming committee. She playfully hopped at Skip, me and anything else that moved along the trail. With Hop (yes, what else?) taking up the rear, I felt like a child again, hiking gorgeous trails with friends … looking for new adventures. With my new best friends in tow, I reached our destination … the home of a renowned Tahitian artist from whom my sister, a travel agent, had commissioned work. I was struck by the stunning, stark simplicity of the surroundings nestled in such an indulgently, verdant island Eden. The modest hand-built open-air abode was sparsely furnished, with a “tree house” feel … beautiful in an unassuming, artisanal way. Minimal by conventional standards, the quarters were succinctly everything one could need and nothing more. I envied the luxury of having all you need and needing all you have. I felt free by association. I took a seat on the expansive veranda to catch my breath and wait for our artist. Skip bounced up to me and plopped his paws in my lap as if to ask if I’d like a cool drink. In fact, he disappeared into the house noisily rummaging around only to reappear again with a tin cup in his mouth. I declined his offer. Tossing the cup onto the veranda, he disappeared again, coming out this time with what I am certain was one of his owner’s shoes that he cuffed around, before turning his attention again to me. Shooing him away had no effect; he was determined to entertain me until his master arrived. Hop kept an eye on him, gently reminding him not to annoy me, lest I leave. I thought “how cute” of Hop … and then I realized either Hop had changed outfits or this was another kitten, slightly more orange-hued and smaller. She ventured tentatively closer to me only to be admonished by Skip. “She’s my friend, I saw her first!” he seemed to say as he nipped at her heels, sending her jumping over the bicycles and boxes stored on the veranda. Jump (clever, aren’t I?) took cover under the love seat with Skip in aggressive pursuit. He managed to corner her, gumming her neck. A lot of kitty screaming ensued with me in the middle “Stop it! Let her go! Come on, guys, stop it!”. Jump was apparently used to it as she eluded Skip and scampered to the safety of the lush lawn below. Hop, in her infinite wisdom and experience, had seen fit to stop there on her way up. She and Jump shared fragrant air on the lawn and Skip settled for a nap on the veranda … and in an instant, my new best friends declared a truce. Taking a deep, sweet breath, I sat back and reveled in the hushed elegance of Polynesia, not believing my God-fortune. What have I done to deserve this treasure? God loves me … he granted me Tahiti and if it’s His will … I will return. After all, it’s only a Hop, Skip and Jump away.